“The Cherry on Top” my farewell sermon at Grace Chapel Watertown

It’s not often you have a chance to say goodbye to your friends, and they’ll sit and listen to you talk for 35 minutes….but I had a patient congregation. Here are my parting words to the congregation that God has gathered at Grace Chapel Watertown. We’re going to miss our family there.

1 Thessalonians 2:7-9   “Instead, we were like young children among you. Just as a nursing mother cares for her children, so we cared for you. Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well. Surely you remember, brothers and sisters, our toil and hardship; we worked night and day in order not to be a burden to anyone while we preached the gospel of God to you.

 

The Cherry On Top from Grace Chapel Teaching Team on Vimeo.

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Why I love Grace Chapel.

 

It is a season of transition, for me, for my family, for my ministry. And transitions are a time that naturally lend themselves to reflection, to consider what has happened, what it means and what part it plays in the next steps of our journey.

Malia and I have invested the last six years of our lives in the Boston area, at first to go to seminary and work with Cru, and we ended up staying around to have a family and serve with Grace Chapel. We’ve only attended one church the whole time we have been in Massachusetts. Grace Chapel. And it has made all the difference.

As we prepared to embark for Boston the summer of 2010, we were both limping spiritually. It had been a heart wrenching couple of years of picking up the pieces of our walk with God after watching the church of my youth implode around our family. When I arrived at seminary, to ostensibly prepare for a lifetime of ministry, I wasn’t sure I even wanted to attend a local church, let alone lead one.

We were hurt, afraid and unsure that God could work through a church in such a way that they were healthy, loving and loved God. But, God had a plan in all of it. He was working in the background to prepare the way.

I had known from the time that I was 18 that I was called to be a pastor, but my Dad was a pastor so I knew it was an awful job/career. I needed healing and restoration and a new vision for ministry and life. I didn’t know that was what I needed, but God did.

When we arrived in MA we knew like 4 people and they all went to a church (Grace Chapel) that was a 35 minute drive from where we lived, but we thought that having people that you loved at your church was probably more important than the location. We had heard that Grace Chapel was planning to start a satellite campus in the community that we were launching a high school outreach in, so we jumped in with both feet.

Best decision we ever made without having any idea how important it would be.

I could gush about my church, the relationships, the leadership, the people, the worship, but I will try to be restrained for the sake of your time, but here are a few of the reasons that I am thankful for Grace Chapel where I have served on staff the last 3+ years.

 

A Healthy Culture

After the implosion of my child hood church in my early 20’s, I wasn’t sure I thought church could work, that people were too broken to trust as a second family, that the institution would always come before people. I was wrong. I’ve seen a couple of places. One was the church that we landed at in Boise, Bread of Life before we moved to Boston, and Grace Chapel.

Grace seems to always put people before policies, before institution, before ministry. People are front and center, and not just the idea of people but actual people, broken people, hard people, all people. I saw this in their care for staff and staff families, and most notably in the pastoral care that was offered to people who were even nominally connected with Grace.

 

Watertown

Three years ago this month I was installed as the Pastor of the nascent Watertown congregation. I honestly could not have told you where it was or that it existed before the marathon bombings two months earlier, and now it will always be a part of me. Grace Chapel gave me the amazing opportunity to launch, lead, pastor and love this amazing group of 250 precious souls. In the job I found my calling, purpose and gifting as a pastor. I understood a little more my role as a catalyst to launch new things in the world. Watertown treated us like family and our family grew under their care. We will miss “the town of many diners” and these precious people at 525 Main St. more than anyone can imagine.

 

Creative Opportunities

When I was 14 years old I had this epiphanic moment where I just knew I wanted to be a filmmaker. I’ve been making videos and doing fun creative stuff with my buddies ever since, including a degree in communications. Being a part of the creative and teaching teams at Grace was an important step in understanding where I contribute the best. I have had so much fun directing, producing, writing and editing videos and media as a part of my role at Grace that I want to continue to find ways to use creativity to tell stories that impact people.

 

The Staff

What an amazing group of dedicated, smart, hardworking, caring colleagues, mentors, pastors and leaders. There is not a better situation for a young pastor than having a chance to lead a congregation, being a part of a large staff team and mentored by seasoned pastors that care about you as a person and a leader. Grace has a culture of personal development that has been vital. All the new things I had never done: funerals, baptisms, baby dedications and difficult pastoral situations, I was not alone. I had an amazing set of bosses in Richard Rhodes, Bill Burke and Bryan Wilkerson. The things I have learned from them will forever shape the ways that I lead and pastor and develop others.

 

The People

There are too many amazing people that love God, love the world and are doing amazing things to bring healing, hope and joy to a hurting and broken world. More ministries than I can name or count have been birthed by the people and support of Grace Chapel. I am incredibly proud to have been a part of such an amazing congregation that plays an incredible role in kingdom impact in New England and around the world.

There is so much more to say, but nothing more than if I can be a part of planting a church that has 1/10th the impact that Grace Chapel has, my life will be an amazing testament to God’s grace.

 

www.grace.org

CCW exterior-3623

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Why would anyone start a new church?

No really, Robert. You say that you are moving to Boise, Idaho to plant a church, why would you do something like that? Aren’t there a bunch of churches in the Boise area? What would make your church better or different than the other churches there? Are you just taking Christians from other churches, diluting the pool of Christian people into more and more smaller churches? Who do you think you are anyways?

I know these are your questions because they were my questions. Over the last year as Malia and I have sensed that this is the next leg in our journey, we’ve been asking God some of these same questions, and after a lot of reading and praying and talking with some smart people, we think that this is worth investing our time, our lives, our careers and our hearts in for the foreseeable future, so what gives?

What are churches for, anyways?

This is a really important question to start with in every area, why? What is the end goal? What is the mission that makes this endeavor worth pursuing? And this question is even more important than most people realize, because in the question and the answer, civilization’s very existence hangs in the balance.

Overstatement there? I think not. The reason that churches exist is because God is working to make the whole world right again, reconciled to each other, to him and to creation. This project has been going on since Genesis 2, and it is the end that the story of history is moving towards. God has a plan to do it all, and it has already started.

God’s plan is people! People’s lives transformed so that they love and serve and give their lives as a sacrifice for others, who love beauty and display courage, who are faithful and true, generous and loving even gracious towards others. When people start to follow Jesus, they become the kind of people that bring joy and light, healing and hope wherever they go, and that is why there is a church, a gathering of people that worship God and follow Jesus. God is drawing the world into a relationship with himself by transforming people’s lives and letting them taste a bit of His goodness through the people in their lives.

So why a new church? Isn’t there someplace you could go serve as a Pastor at an existing church?

There are lots of reasons to plant churches, even in places where there are existing churches. Tim Keller says it much better than me, here’s a link: http://reviveaus.com.au/pdfs/Why_Plant_Churches-Keller.pdf

The thought that has really stuck with me is this, we are not starting a new church as our goal. We want to be a part of seeing people’s lives transformed by the gospel. When that happens, people gather together for worship and service and community. So hopefully a church is started as a result of our work rather than the goal.

So why Boise?

So I’ve spent the last 6 years in religion-less New England, the least churched region in the country. In the Boston metro area only something like 17% of people attend church in any given week. So there is a significant need here for great churches to connect with people that aren’t interested in church. We have loved our time serving in Watertown, there have been some amazing things happening, people’s lives transformed. When we started to pray about our sense that we should start a church in Boise we did some basic demographic research. I was blown away by my hometown. In Boston 45% of folks say that they have no religious affiliation. In Boise, that number is 55%. More than half of people have no faith to call their own. Even if we doubled the size of every Christian church in Boise and doubled the number of churches, not even half of Boise would be at church. So there is a real need.

Secondly, most churches, the longer they are around, the less work they are able to do connecting with their neighborhoods and serving. The life of an institution starts to suck the people involved of their time and money. A new thing has some agility, some ability to move and adjust to the needs around them. Not to mention that they don’t survive unless they grow and engage with people outside their group. These are all good reasons to start something new.

Lastly though, this is really how Malia and I have been built. To start stuff from scratch and reach out to people who are not churchy people.

More to come on the church plant but needless to say we are excited to see what God does in this next season.

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Big changes for the Frazier Family

If you follow my blog you saw a flurry of posts at the start of the year as a part of a New Year’s hustle, but they slowed down to a trickle at the end of January. Here is what has been taking up so much of my mind space the last several months.

Malia and I have been in Massachusetts for almost 6 years. We spent three years finishing my masters at Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary and helping launch ministries on high school and middle school campuses with Cru. Malia has invested the last 6 years serving at Boston Medical Center’s ENT clinic, and volunteering with Cru. For the last 3 years together we have led a team of incredible people to launch Grace Chapel’s 3rd campus in Watertown, MA just 2 miles outside Boston.

It has been an amazing time of growth and hustle, of sacrifice and maturing, of learning and healing.

But, we have sensed that God was leading us toward a new role in a new place, planting more churches. It has been quite a process discerning God’s will with some close mentors and friends over the last year. With great excitement and a lot of sadness for the people and places we are leaving behind, we move forward by faith, trusting that God has some good plans for us and for Grace Chapel.

We think that God is leading us to plant churches. He has uniquely made us to start things, and to reach out to unchurched people. God has given us His heart for the lost, to care for and reach out to those that are far from God. And as we have prayed and searched, we just can’t shake this burden God has given us to reach out to people in the pacific northwest, to go back to our home in Boise, Idaho and be a part of a movement of gospel centered churches that plant other churches across the northwest, one of the least churched regions of the country.

When we came to Massachusetts, we were pretty beat up spiritually. We had some rough experiences with church and we weren’t sure that we wanted to be a part of a church, let alone lead one. But God, in His great mercy, brought us to Grace Chapel, where we found a gospel-centered church that was relationally healthy with a great culture. And God not only got us involved, but got us to volunteer, to join staff and even lead a campus. We have loved every minute of Grace Chapel. It has become our church home, and we want to take the great stuff that we have learned here and bring it with us in our church planting.

Man, so much sadness and excitement all at once.

We are looking at moving towards the end of the summer (late August/early September), and at that point starting to assemble a launch team that will help us reach out in the city where God plants us.

More details to come as we figure them out, but wanted to let you in on this big news that has been brewing for a long time.

We would appreciate your prayers for this time of transition, for the leaders that will take over at Grace Chapel Watertown, for our baby due in a couple of weeks, and for smooth sailing on the move/transition.

I’ll ask for money later, today is just news. Enjoy it while it lasts😉
-Robert and Malia

Update: Baby was born last Saturday, Theodore Charles. He and mom are doing great. Follow on Facebook for pics. Click here if you’d like to get regular prayer updates via email.

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“The 1%ers” Sermon on Lost Sheep from Luke 15, Feb. 21, 2016

February 21, 2016 Watertown, The 1%ers from Grace Chapel Teaching Team on Vimeo.

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5 Reasons I wish Jesus wasn’t real

5 reasons I wish jesus wasn't realJesus is a real problem for us. Not just for those people who claim to follow him. He is a problem for everyone.

The thing he did that is almost unforgiveable, is he made these universal claims that you either have to accept or deny in whole.

“I am the way the truth and the life, no one comes through the Father except through me”

“Whoever wants to follow me must deny himself take up His cross and follow me.”

“Whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”

“I am the resurrection and the life, he who believes in me will live even though he dies”

“Are you the messiah the Christ? It is as you have said”

Unfortunately it puts all of us in this bind. We either have to:

  1. Accept what he says is true and orient our lives around His teachings and commands… Or
  2. Deny him as a flat out kook, or a “nutter” as Bono put it.

I have decided that I do believe He is who He said He was. I am in the process of orienting my life around His teachings and His life. But, I have those days of doubts. If it’s not true I don’t want to waste my life telling people about Jesus. So today I put together list that is somewhat humorous and somewhat serious of the top 5 reasons that I wish Jesus wasn’t real.

  1. Everything is about Him. Jesus, Jesus, Jesus. Other religions are made up to bring people pleasure. The ancient and pagan religions included temple prostitutes and ritual feasts, the Mormons will give you a harem of spirit wives and your own planet if you behave, Islam offers 70 virgins and a river of beer. If you’re a man, these sound like good deals. With Jesus you get self-sacrifice, holiness, chastity and charity….and eternal life enjoying God’s goodness. Alas, no river of beer. (here’s to hoping the New Jerusalem has barley and hops).
  2. If Jesus isn’t real I could pick and choose what I want to believe of his teachings and the Bible, I could make up my own religion just the way I want to. Instead I have to read the whole Bible and take it seriously as an expression of God’s work in history. I’m a creative guy, I could come up with some cool Christian mashups….like Judeo-Hindi where sacred cows get to sacrifice humans for their sins.
  3. It wouldn’t matter what I did with my body. Jesus tells us that our body is a temple because it is the dwelling place of God and it has a purpose beyond just pleasure for us….which is a bummer. I like destroying this body for momentary pleasure. I’m a glutton for punishment.
  4.  Who wants to take real consequences for our actions before an all-knowing all-powerful, just God? If Jesus weren’t real and no one found out about my indiscretions I could do anything and not experience consequences…but as it is I have this guilt machine in my soul that tells me that it matters when I am bad, even if people don’t know it.
  5.  I could be a happy materialist. Let’s be honest, it’s hard to be good, to pursue justice, to love mercy and walk humbly with God. Wouldn’t it be nice if all of this was just cosmic star dust, rearranged atoms that have no meaning or purpose? Then there would be an endless opportunity to create a world that brings me pleasure and comfort and all I would have to do is obey the laws and not make other people miserable. That is simple enough.

 

*stay tuned for my top 5 reasons that I am glad that Jesus is real.

 

 

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Why you should start buying your friends.

Last summer I was invited to be on the board for a local non-profit that gives out personal and program grants that help poor seniors. We give money for air conditioners in the summer, heating oil in the winter, car repairs, rent payments, etc.

We see a lot of dire situations coming through our doors. Almost weekly in our small city there are seniors at risk of homelessness, freezing cold or suffocating heat. And almost all of them are preventable. Completely preventable. And it has nothing to do with economics, poverty, social security, safety nets or the government in any way.

Jesus gives us a little clue in Luke 16.

Jesus told his disciples: “There was a rich man whose manager was accused of wasting his possessions. So he called him in and asked him, ‘What is this I hear about you? Give an account of your management, because you cannot be manager any longer.’

“The manager said to himself, ‘What shall I do now? My master is taking away my job. I’m not strong enough to dig, and I’m ashamed to beg— I know what I’ll do so that, when I lose my job here, people will welcome me into their houses.’

“So he called in each one of his master’s debtors. He asked the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’

“‘Nine hundred gallons of olive oil,’ he replied.

“The manager told him, ‘Take your bill, sit down quickly, and make it four hundred and fifty.’

“Then he asked the second, ‘And how much do you owe?’

“‘A thousand bushels of wheat,’ he replied.

“He told him, ‘Take your bill and make it eight hundred.’

“The master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly. For the people of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own kind than are the people of the light. I tell you, use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.

 

This is a funny passage. If most of us did what the shrewd manager does in the parable we would possible be brought up on legal charges for stealing from our employers or breeching our fiduciary trust. Instead, Jesus says, this guy is smart because the thing that we most need in the world is not a job or money but friends.

No really, look again. It’s right there in the passage, and it’s reality for seniors all over the world.

He is getting old, losing his job, can’t work, it’s a forced retirement, not strong enough to dig and not humble enough to beg so what is his option? He uses his job, his position, his wealth, his privilege to make friends, because friends are the people who let you live with them. Friends give you food, friends give you a ride when you need it.

You see, even when you have no money, a friend will make sure you don’t die of starvation.

And this is the preventable problem that I see in the lives of these seniors. The ones that come to us are estranged from their children and their families. They live  far away or don’t have any relationship. They are completely poor in that they don’t have a social safety net of family and friends. They don’t have any social capital to draw upon. They are truly, truly poor.

Now I am not going to lay the blame on these seniors completely. Some of them never had children, have lost most of their families, or have poor children who are unable to help them. But many have children that are unwilling to help them. And that could be for relational reasons or just bad character. Either way, their poverty could have been prevented through the family.

This was how God designed family to be. This is His # 1 plan to prevent social injustices of poverty and preventable death. Family and friendship, tribe and church are the plan for us to not need a government assistance program.

Now, as a caveat, I want to say that this does not take away our responsibility as a people to care for the indigent. There are many who have no family by no fault of their own, through tragedy or poverty or disability they need help and the state is responsible for their care, and you should be glad for that even as a conservative. Why? Because you might be the person that needs the help when they are older, and the simplest application of the golden rule or the greatest commandments should move you to collective compassion on the most vulnerable in our society, widows and orphans.

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